He was finally going home. After seven years in orphanages, 14-year-old John was going home.
Before the age of seven, John’s negligent mother farmed her children out to family and neighbors. The neighbor woman who took John in exploited him. Rather than sending him to school, she made John tend to her sheep and cattle. We are not exactly sure of the circumstances, but at some point this woman sent John to a local orphanage.
For the next three years John lived in an orphanage that was so poorly run, the government investigated and consequently shut it down. Unfortunately this home failed to maintain records or background information on any of the children.
The government social workers proceeded to place all of the children in other residential homes where they could then follow up on each child’s case. This is how John came to us at Grandma’s House. He was 10 years old.
We attempted to interview John multiple times, but he would not offer any information about himself, his family members or his home village. All we knew was the district he came from. Our hands were tied until he could provide some identifying information. It’s no surprise, really. Compared to his previous two living situations, John was happy at Grandma’s House. He apparently felt very insecure about offering up information–afraid that he might be sent back to a situation of exploitation or rejection.
Slowly, the years ticked by. Then last May, we hired Keresi to serve as our full-time social worker. A significant part of Keresi’s job is to help with reunification for children like John. Now 14-years-old, John was not doing as well. He was restless and often wondered about his mother. Soon one thing led to another and John gave us the name of his mother. Surprisingly, he also said he might remember how to get to his home.
We contacted the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) in his district to make a plan. As a result, last month Keresi, John and I hopped in the car at 5:30 a.m. for the journey we hoped would find his family. Four hours later we picked up the MSD child welfare officer helping us with his case, and drove in the general direction of what we believed to be John’s village.
After pulling onto a rugged dirt road, we stopped to talk to a woman sweeping her stoop. The child welfare officer called out in Sesotho from the car window.
“Hello Ma’am, do you know where Mrs. So-and-So lives?”
“Ohhhhh, Mrs. So-and-So? She died!”
The impact of that information hit Keresi and the officer with great force. They weren’t sure if John, who was sitting in the back seat, heard the lady. The officer turned to him and asked if he heard what the woman said. His answer was clear as he broke into sobs. How we wished we could have rewound that conversation. The weight of emotion in that car was heavy, as we all comforted John and let him grieve.
The lady continued, providing a cell phone number for John’s sister. We phoned the sister and she and a cousin hurried to meet us.
I can’t imagine being his sister and getting that phone call. “Your brother, whom you thought was lost, is here, right now.”
Ten minutes later we could see them coming up the path. The anticipation, nervousness, and joy showed in every quick step they made. When they met, John’s sister saw a young man rather than the small boy she once knew.
We walked down the path together toward the sister’s home. Along the way, John’s aunt met us. She had not heard the news, but was on her way to the clinic. With one look at John, her voice caught in her throat. Tears flowed as she cried out his name, hugged and kissed him. In her emotional state she immediately told us more of the story.
“We were looking for him. Even before his mother died, we looked for him. The neighbor woman refused to tell us anything, only that the government had our child. We went as far as Maseru (the capital) asking where he was, but nobody knew.
“When his mother died, we looked again. But we couldn’t find him. That mother of his, if only she wasn’t so careless with her children.” And on and on she went. She also immediately offered for John to live with her and his cousin. Through our home assessment, and other due diligence, we knew this was where John needed to be.
Our next big challenge was to enroll him in high school. His family wouldn’t be able to afford the school fees, and the schools were already full. Yet, God in His grace, gave us great favor with the government bursary officer, who recognized John as their client. They fully agreed to grant him a high school bursary and free school supplies—even though he did not have the required birth certificate or parent’s death certificate.
This is nothing short of a miracle.
The next stop was the nearby high school where we experienced another miracle. We explained John’s special case to the admissions officer, who was under no obligation to accept him. After a little pleading, they agreed to give him a chance.
We were completely in shock and blown away at how quickly all these processes came together. Usually these steps take months. John now permanently lives with his aunt, and is surrounded by family.
We recently visited John to follow up. John is thriving and re-establishing relationships and making new friends. We’ll continue to monitor his placement and support a positive transition and reunification.
The significance to John’s reunification has many layers. Most children who age-out of an orphanage have nowhere to go, no inheritance, no family property, and no family support system. They often resort to petty theft, gangs and other harmful substitutes to a sense of belonging and provision. When a child is with their family, they will never age-out.
John’s chances for a more secure future have increased exponentially. We are grateful to be a part of his journey, and thank you for being a part of it as well through your prayers and support.
Executive Director, Faith Foundation
*The name and identity of the child in this story has been changed in accordance with Lesotho Child Protection Laws.
We are convinced you are the best team of supporters anyone could ask for, and in appreciation of your prayers and contributions, here is a short update!
Our new home
Overall we’ve had an incredibly busy and full few months. In July we moved all of our offices and the children’s home to a new location. Everyone did their part to help, including our little 3 year old (such a big helper carrying books one at a time!). The family who owned the previous property sold it, and has graciously provided the new home and property where we are now. We are so grateful and are making the new house work (which is quite a bit smaller) while we make plans to establish a permanent site.
Celebrating 50 Years of Independence
Lesotho celebrated 50 years of independence in October. Our children attended a Holiday Club during that time led by a local ministry, Ratanang Community Foundation and their volunteers from Cape Town. More than 300 children from the community attended the 3-day event!
The Path to High School
When children in Lesotho finish 7th Grade, it is the end of their elementary education. Many never move on to high school. Getting into high school is much like the U.S. university process. To get in to high school, our seventh graders have to do well on a national exam, apply to a high school, get an interview, and be accepted. And high school is not free. There are school fees and exam fees. Four of our children have just finished 7th Grade, spent MONTHS studying, and are currently awaiting exam results and acceptance letters. We are so proud of them and will support them every step of the way.
January 2017 Update: Two of the children received a First Class Pass in all three major subjects. A third missed the overall First Class Pass by one subject. The fourth child received a Third Class Pass. We are excited that exam results of all four students qualified them for high school admission.
The Master Key …
Legal documents such as an ID, birth certificate, parents’ death certificates, and health records are all necessary to unlock opportunities for each child. Without documentation children often do not receive educational opportunities and government assistance. They are undocumented citizens in their own country. Most of the children who come into our custody arrive without documentation. This is one of our most challenging, time-consuming tasks. Since July 1, we have successfully helped:
One of the biggest challenges in a children’s home is cultivating the individual interests and talents of each child. Even with 38 children in our crisis home, we make every effort to do that. Here are a few ways we are seeing this happen:
THANK YOU for helping us love each child and encourage their potential! There is so much more to share, but for now, we wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Thanksgiving.
With much love and hearts full of gratitude,
All of us at Faith Foundation and Trust for Africa!
July 10, 2016
Sometimes when something is so common, we don’t see it anymore. Child abuse in Lesotho is so rampant that only extreme cases are reported. Lesotho also has the third highest rape incidence rate in the world and tragically, many victims are children. Though frowned upon, these crimes are so common they are often met with apathy and fatalistic resignation.
While Trust for Africa conducts community awareness of child rights and how to report abuse, the sad reality is there isn’t one person in Lesotho who has not been affected by trauma or loss. The need for healing and counselling has been met with a deafening silence in the past. But this is why we are passionate about the trauma care workshop we recently held for a second year.
From May 30-June 3 we conducted a workshop on trauma care for child welfare workers (social workers, police officers, orphanage house mothers, program directors, teachers, etc.). It more than met our expectations! The training was profound and not only equipped the attendees to work with children who have experienced trauma and loss, but it also had a personal impact on them.
One participant shared, “I found healing myself from this training and I am going to rebuild and create a good rapport with the children and share and train their caregivers.”
Our facilitator, Patrice Penney of ICARA, did an incredible job taking complex topics and breaking them down into simple, easy to understand analogies, examples and activities. If you’re interested you can read more about her work here.
This training was made possible by a true partnership between three organizations: Trust for Africa, Sentebale and ICARA. Through our collaboration, the impact of this training has the potential to reach more than 1,840 children served by the 50 participants who attended, their 33 organizations, and one Prince.
Yes, we had a surprise visit by Prince Seeiso! In a heart-felt speech he stated how impressed he was by the content of the workshop and also expressed his deep gratitude for the hard work of all child welfare workers. He even remarked that the Lesotho Parliament could use this training. The local media also came and did a segment on the national evening news on the workshop. Wow!
Following the main sessions, 25 social workers and educators remained for additional training to become trainers of this curriculum. After a few more practice sessions that Trust for Africa will organize, they will be equipped to carry this training out to churches, schools, communities and other child welfare organizations.
That’s our heart with this trauma care training―to disseminate it as far and wide as we can, to help adults know how to help nurture the hearts of children and facilitate healing.
Thank you for your friendship, care, and partnership in helping us at Faith Foundation and Trust for Africa serve and care for Lesotho’s children. You are a critical link in bringing healing to children, one heart at a time!
Much love and appreciation,
I don’t know about you, but I love seeing all the first day of school photos posted by friends and family. Cuteness overload! A warm and hearty “welcome back to school” to all our learners!
As you send your children back to school, I want to thank you for sending our children at Grandma’s House and our Child Support Groups to school as well. Your donations for Education Support help each of these children have the school uniforms, shoes, sweaters, books, supplies, and confidence to learn and grow.
Last Christmas, as I attended my nephew’s pre-K Christmas Pageant, there was a sea of beaming, waving, friends and family. Each child wore their goofy, homemade costumes, looking adorable and being adored. I choked up. I couldn’t help but think of the children at Grandma’s House. They have no parents cheering them on at school events, award ceremonies, or waving to them from the bleachers. The silence and void of parental involvement is deafening to their little hearts.
This is why our staff at Grandma’s House – the house mothers, our Program Director, even our gardeners, make every effort to attend the school events of our children…continue reading this story and more in our Grandma’s House 2nd Quarter Report.
You can also read our annual Education Report here.
Thank you again and happy learning!
Have you read our 2014 Annual Report? We’d love for you to take a look!
A letter for you!
It’s been an incredibly full few months! Click here to read the latest news!
These women are part of the Qhalasi Ratanang Child Support Group. They tirelessly care for orphans, vulnerable children, the elderly and the sick. They are teachers, community health workers, mothers, wives, and daughters.
At their weekly meeting, they spontaneously started singing. This is not unusual — singing is a huge part of the Basotho culture!
These children at the Kou’s Child Support Group kept themselves entertained as they waited for their dinner to be served. They never tire of singing songs and playing games!